Le Trio Joubran in Abu Dhabi: Timeless art in turbulent times

Oud musicians Adnan, Wissam and Samir Joubran performed at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation

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To know what it's like to drink a glassful of someone else's feelings is to go to a Le Trio Joubran concert.

It was more than 15 years ago when a performance they held at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation would change my life forever. The three Palestinian brothers brought joy and raw emotion to my teenage self in a way that I've always longed to relive.

On Wednesday, I did just that but with the maturity and life experience to understand the complex feelings they tried to convey not only through silence and song, but also with gestures and body language.

I also learnt very quickly that a journey into the Joubrans' souls is a difficult thing to do in our modern day, despite the nostalgic venue in which the concert took place at.

Moments after the trio took their seats — joined by Valentin Mussou on cello and Youssef Hbeisch on percussions — blindingly bright, blue-toned, square lights began to distract as people took out their mobile phones to film the beautiful scene.

Every time I found myself immersed, I'd be jolted back to reality by someone who just couldn't let themselves get lost in the moment. This is when I knew that attending the brothers when they were just a young band, with only one album and a modest name on the global stage, was truly a blessing.

I felt disappointed that people were unable to enjoy the dancing lights that mimicked every song's mood, or the crescent moon in the background that became whole by the end of their gut-wrenching serenade, The Hanging Moon.

One cannot deny the powerful moments they brought to this world. Intertwined with the trauma and romance in Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's words, the brothers played with fervour, whimsy and loyalty.

They even said so themselves.

"We played our hearts on to the stage at the Dubai Opera, but we have not left our hearts there. Tonight, we promise to do the same," they told a crowded hall.

Where else but with Le Trio Joubran would you hear a French cellist move you to tears, as oud strings are played so furtively, you worry they might snap, while Darwish's eternal words bellow between powerful notes: "With an azure drinking cup, studded with lapis, wait for her / In the evening at the spring, among perfumed roses, wait for her / Wait for her to sit in a garden at the peak of its flowering / Wait for her so that she may breathe this air, so strange to her heart / And wait for her".

"Feel free to audibly enjoy and to react to the music," the brothers said. "We love you as you are."

The consensus was that we felt their joy, heartbreak, pain and utter love for their roots and their own music so vividly, against all our high-tech odds.

To the three brothers from Nazareth: thank you. We love you as you are, too.

Updated: December 15, 2022, 10:14 AM